Opinion: Knee-jerk reaction to pain


“It really hurts,” I said to my wife as my knee buckled under me.

“Good,” Mary Ellen said.

That’s not the kind of support you expect from your spouse. It’s bad enough I have virtually no support from my knee, which is why I’m getting a new one next week. Unlike a heart or kidney, you do not get someone else’s knee: It pretty much comes in a box like a pair of shoes from Amazon Prime. You just have to pray it’s going to fit. And there’s a lousy return policy.

Why my wife’s apparent lack of sympathy? When I have a couple of pain-free days, I question having this operation. This drives Mary Ellen nuts. When we go on vacation, my wife wants to hike all morning and shop all afternoon, and I usually hurt too much to tag along. To end this agony, I’ll need a new knee.  To avoid going shopping, I’ll need a new excuse.

And I have another issue. I have never spent a night in a hospital in my life, and I’m afraid I will get very antsy and impatient until I get to go home. I’ve stopped going to the Minute Clinic at CVS. It once took them twice as long to treat me as the name suggests.

Jennifer went over guidelines to follow prior to surgery. I have trouble concentrating, but I remembered her saying no alcohol four hours prior to surgery. I love beer, but that seemed manageable. My wife claimed she said four weeks. Mary Ellen’s  a better listener, and that’s why I wanted her with me through the entire orientation. When I went in for my EKG, the nurse told Mary Ellen she need not accompany me, “unless you’d get a kick out of watching me rip the adhesive pads off your husband’s hairy chest.”

The last stop that day was the hospitalist, the physician who assesses your medications to avoid any complications with the anesthesia. The nurse referred to him as “our very own medicine man,” which made me so nervous my knees started to shake. That made my bad knee throb—which is why when we left the hospital, Mary Ellen was feeling pretty good about everything.